<– Part 200 – May 19, 1918 | Part 201 – May 26, 1918 | Part 202 – June 2, 1918

On May 23, Costa Rica declared war on Germany.

The telegraph cable connecting New York and Nova Scotia was cut May 21, and May 25 saw three US schooners off the coast of Virginia stopped, crews imprisoned, and ships sunk by the German sub U-151, which remains at large.

Ottoman forces have invaded the Russian Transcaucasus along three axes, each having 10-15,000 soldiers, drawing protests from Germany as a violation of last December’s armistice. The Ottomans goal, besides taking the valuable oilwells of the region, includes eliminating the last area of Armenian territory, which has seen hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians enter following the Ottoman elimination and genocide of Armenians within the Ottoman Empire’s own territory. Due to the Russian Army’s evacuating the area, a native Armenian army has been formed, and the area is seen as the Armenian’s last stand. Church bells rang for six days, calling all able-bodied men to muster, and others, including children, have volunteered to carry supplies. A minor skirmish towards Sardarabad May 20 saw the Turks brush aside an Armenian unit, with another victory against an Armenian force of 600 infantry and 250 cavalry on May 21. The Armenian 5th Regiment was orered to conduct guerilla operations against the advancing Turks, and were successful on May 22 at halting the Turkish advance at the Araks River, and have been opposing the Turks since, though they have since entrenched along the mountain heights, and have been in near-constant contact since.

An additional force attacked May 21 towards Yerevan, but following three days of intense fighting with an Armenian force half their size, the Armenians counter-attacked on May 25 and have begun pushing the Ottomans back.

The final prong of the Ottoman attack, facing no opposition at first, has finally encountered Armenian resistance mustered from the nearby population centers on May 25 near Karakilisa, and has been engaged in brutal fighting for several days.

<– Part 199 – May 12, 1918 | Part 200 – May 19, 1918 | Part 201 – May 26, 1918

The Czechoslovak Legion, a unit of the Russian Army formed in large part from Austro-Hungarian deserters, has revolted against the Bolsheviks, following a broken promise of safe passage through Soviet territory. On May 14, a Soviet train was stopped in Chelyabinsk, in the Urals, and a Soviet soldier aboard was shot and killed following his throwing a rock at a Czech soldier and injuring him. The local Soviet government arrested and ordered the execution of several Czech soldiers, but other members of the Legion freed their men and have occupied the city. The Czechoslovak Legion has begun occupying other cities along the railway.

On May 16, the Espionage Act in the United States was extended. Earlier in the month, Joseph Franklin Rutherford & other directors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society were arrested, following the publication of a book expounding on the prophecies of Revelation and Ezekiel, and calling on Christians to seek higher authorities than civil government, especially in light of the ongoing war.

<– Part 198 – May 5, 1918 | Part 199 – May 12, 1918 | Part 200 – May 19, 1918

The Romanian Prime Minister signing the treaty

Romanian territorial concessions. Dobruja, in blue, to Bulgaria. Green jointly governed by the Central Powers. Orange/Yellow Bessarabia, and Purple to Austria-Hungary, giving them passes through the Carpathian Mountains.

Following Romania’s isolation from the other Entente Powers due to Russia’s withdrawal from the war, coupled with the stalemate of the last few years, the Treaty of Bucharest was signed May 7 between Romania and the Central Powers. Romania gave up portions of land (see map), her oil wells must be leased to Germany for 90 years, and German civil servants are able to veto all Romanian cabinet decisions and fire any Romanian civil servant. In return, Romania’s Union with Bessarabia is recognized. The Bessarabian region of Russia had declared independence at the start of the February Revolution as the Moldavian Democratic Republic. Last month, her government voted for a Union with Romania, fearing a total annexation, but recognizing the need for alliance.

On May 8, another Central American power declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungaria: Nicaragua.

The Polish II Corps in Russia was ordered to camp near Kaniów, Ukraine, by the Regency Council – a German and Austro-Hungarian-appointed semi-independent government of Partitioned Poland. The II Corps is comprised of elements of the Austria-Hungarian army who deserted after the Treaty of Brest-

Austria-Hungary signing the treaty

Litovsk with Russia removed the possibility of an independent Poland. These Poles joined up with Polish elements of the Imperial Russian Army and refused to engage in hostilities. After camping, they were quickly surrounded by German forces, who ordered them to surrender. They refused and prepared for battle, surprising the Germans, who quickly told them the ultimatum was a mistake (and then prepared for reinforcements). Once the German reinforcements arrived, the 12,000 Germans attacked the 8,000 Poles on the night of May 10. Brutal fighting continued until the evening of May 11, when the Germans proposed a ceasefire, accepted by the Poles. Approximately half the surviving Poles were captured, though the rest escaped. Polish casualties were 1,000, with another 3,250 captured, while the Germans suffered 1,500 casualties. The Polish commander was able to fake his death and flee to France.

Battle of Kaniow


<– Part 197 – April 28, 1918 | Part 198 – May 5, 1918 | Part 199 – May 12, 1918


Sketch of the theater of operations in the Second Transjordan attack. Es Salt is in the center top; the thin, steep trail to it, held by desperate fighting by the British, runs to the south-west of the town.

Photo, taken by plane, of the Jordan river and foothills

The German Spring Offensive ended April 29, at the Lys, with the final German attack capturing

Scherpenberg, a hill north-west of Kemmelberg.

The main action of the week happened near Shunet and Es Salt, in the Transjordan; formerly a primary theater of British operations, the recent offensive in Europe has made this nearly a distraction, and 60,000 men have been shifted to Europe and replaced by colonial forces of the British Indian Army. The weakened east flank at the Transjordan is still a problem for the British; failure to hold it could force a British retreat all the way back to Egypt; so the attempts to take Amman continue.

The central thrust was towards Es Salt,  but large numbers of German & Ottoman forces moving to the west side of the Jordan River at Mafid Jozele & Jisr ed Damiye are threatening the British left flank. The left & right flanks have both been pinned down by enemy fire, while bad terrain limits the British artillery’s effectiveness at spotting and neutralizing targets.

Position on May 2, 1918 – Es Salt nearly surrounded, with only a thin, steep, single-file path to the south-west

May 1 – desperate defense on the British left flank

A German & Ottoman counter-attack on the left flank came May 1, and pushed the British into the foothills, forcing them to abandon much artillery. The Ottomans had places piles of stones at measured distances to help with artillery ranging. Around 1,500 British troops were able to regroup north of the Umm esh Shert track, allowing the light horse to retreat along the only viable path to safety. The British commander at Es Salt, the “point of the triangle” for the British assault, found out at 1640 of the retreat, and rushed troops to the new western flank (he was already facing threats to the north, east, and southeast. Supplies had to be brought to the troops at Es Salt in the evening on 200 donkeys, a 40-mile round trip, as this is the only way now to resupply the troops. A road expected to be held by the Beni Sakhr (a native Arab tribe), is still open, as the tribe fled when seeing the intense fighting.


On May 2, the fierce fighting continues. Unable to push the left flank to relieve pressure on Es Salt – now under attack on 3 sides – the British forces south were ordered to continue their attack on the German troops at El Haud & Shunet Nimrim. After an advance under blistering fire of 1 mile – which took 6-7 hours – the German/Ottoman heavy machinegun and artillery fire forced a retreat back to safety, in defiance of superior orders. To the west, 1 battalion advancing at night was caught on a hill when the sun rose and was forced to lie flat until nightfall. The British ambulances are running out of supplies, so airplanes have dropped supplies – packed into sandbags, padded with cotton dressings, only the glass vials were damaged in the 1,000-foot drop.

British light horse watering the horses in the Jordan, during the retreat

May 3, the Central Power attacks in the morning were barely repulsed by the beleaguered British defenders. Es Salt is virtually surrounded, while more German/Ottoman troops are on the way. The order to withdraw was finally given at 4pm. Es Salt evacuation began, and the town was empty by 0230 the following morning, and the forces had crossed the Jordan river by evening of May 4. The hills were entirely cleared by 10:30 that day; some units left to defend the evacuation trail have been in continuous combat since May 1. The bridgeheads are held, but the rest of the troops crossed the Jordan to safety. The battle was over May 4. A tactical defeat for the British, it nonetheless had only 1,800 casualties. It would have been much worse had the thin British defense failed at any number of places.

Speaking of the dead during the retreat, Bernard Blaser, in his book Kilts Across the Jordan, said:

Each lifeless body was lifted into the wagons; ten, twenty, thirty and more, the very best of fellows; men with whom we had lived, with whom we had laughed, men with who we had discussed the past and planned the future, now all covered with blood and dust, tattered and disfigured – dead. It was a horrible sight. As each corpse was lifted up, we half expected to hear the old familiar laugh or the same cheerful voice. There had been no last look, no parting words. Not a sound broke the grim silence save the dull thud as each limp form found its place at the bottom of the wagon.